, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 263-269

Soil protozoa and forest tree growth: non-nutritional effects and interaction with mycorrhizae

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Abstract

Mycorrhizal (Lactarius rufus Fr.) and non-mycorrhizal Norway spruce seedlings (Picea abies Karst.) were grown in a sand culture and inoculated with protozoa (naked amoebae and flagellates) extracted from native forest soil or with protozoa grown on agar cultures. A soil suspension from which the protozoa were eliminated by filtration or chloroform fumigation was used as a control. After 19 weeks of growth in a climate chamber at 20–22°C, the seedlings were harvested. Protozoa reduced the number of bacterial colony-forming units extracted from the rhizoplane of both non-mycorrhizal and mycorrhizal seedlings and significantly increased seedling growth. However, concentrations of mineral nutrients in needles were not increased in seedlings with protozoan treatment. It is concluded that the increased growth of seedling was not caused by nutrients released during amoebal grazing on rhizosphere micro-organisms. The protozoa presumably affected plant physiological processes, either directly, via production of phytohormones, or indirectly, via modification of the structure and performance of the rhizosphere microflora and their impact on plant growth. Mycorrhizal colonization significantly increased the abundance of naked amoebae at the rhizoplane. Our observations indicate that protozoa in the rhizosphere interact significantly with mycorrhizae.